The Potential Lunatics is a brother-sister punk rock duo, Emma who plays guitar and sings is sixteen and Isaac, the drummer, is fourteen. They’re young and full of passion and talent. I remember seeing them at the Viento y Agua open mic back in 2008 (yeah, when they were twelve and ten) and could tell something really special was happening. When I saw them play last night at MADhaus, they were by far my favorite band of the night. Emma’s lyrics and stage presence are captivating, and the musical chemistry between her and her brother is undeniable. Her voice gets gritty and reminiscent of Courtney Love or Brody Dalle and her lyrics are punk rock pith. Go to a show, buy their albums, wear their merch, read this interview- Support these Well Trained Youngsters!
Interview by Chris Kramme of Garth’s Jelly Donut
CHRIS: You have a new song called Girl Goddess #9. I’ve been trying to figure out if you’re saying that the character in the song is a Libber (as in women’s lib) and a writer or if she’s liberated. I like the idea of two meanings and the play on words, but what’s actually going on here?
EMMA: Hahaha, I actually didn’t mean for the character to be a writer, but I love the accidental double meaning that you’ve found in the song. I had written a song before I wrote “Girl Goddess” and I wrote a verse about liberating yourself in public. I scratched the song but I kept a similar message. Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself out there. You need to liberate yourself, your whole self in private before you can fully grasp this large thing you’re aiming towards. Feeling comfortable in your own skin is hard sometimes, it takes some time to find yourself, see where you are, start loving yourself, and be liberated.
A lot of the thought process, for me, went on when I was laying in my bed at night. Which is why I talk about twisted sheets and fancy dreams.
CHRIS: Some of your songs are about sexism and gender roles. What have you found to be effective tools against sexism in the music community? How do you feel about the emergence of several feminist music events and organizations, such as Ladyfest IE, Ladies Rock Camp, Rock & Roll Camp For Girls LA and OC? Is it more important to change the existing culture or to proclaim one’s own, or both?
EMMA: Both! I say take it all! I love Ladyfest IE, Grrrl Virus, Rock n Roll Camp For Girls, and all of the emerging feminst events and organizations. It feels really rad to be a part of something that’s been growing for so long, on a new branch of folks who the tradition has been passed on to.
Effective tools against sexism in the music community would be just being in the music community!
CHRIS: As a visual artist and someone who engages her audience during a performance, do you see yourself getting involved with set design for your shows and finding new ways to involve the audience as a participant in the show?
EMMA: Yes! I love finding ways to involve the audience. I love going to a show and feeling apart of the whole thing, and would love to bring that energy to our crowd. As for set design I’m looking forward to a shipment that’s going to come in.. It’s stonehenge and it will be placed behind us. We’re also planning on coming out of alien pods.
CHRIS: Your drumming style…It’s punk rock for sure, but it has a metal edge… no, wait, an element of metal (Iron?)… it’s rad and I dig the solos a lot! Which drummers have influenced your style? How does a good audience affect you when you’re behind the kit?
ISAAC: Thank you! I’m not really sure, there wasn’t ever really one band that I listened to. I think because I grew up listening to so many kinds of music that i can’t really say who it was specifically. I listened to celtic music, zydeco, classic rock, punk, folk, riot grrl, world music, classical, some pop music, and hard rock. Now, when I write my part of the music, I just go with whatever feels right.
A good audience really makes feel very energetic, so a lot of times the better the crowd is, the faster I play. I tend to want to show off a little more when there’s a lot of enthusiastic people.
CHRIS: Rumor has it that you moonlight as an opera singer. Is there any truth to this?
ISAAC: Kind of. Although I do enjoy singing opera style, I don’t do it anywhere but the shower.
CHRIS: Do you have any advice for aspiring drummers?
ISAAC: I do. It might not be easy at first, but if you really want to play drums, practicing really makes a difference. when I first started playing drums, i had no idea what I was doing, but as i played more and more I really improved.
CHRIS: Your new songs have a gritty, fuzzy, let’s-run-around-and-jump-
into-the-drum-kit sense of immediacy to them. How has your music and your writing process changed in the short time since Well Trained Youngsters? What or who is inspiring you these days?
ISAAC: I have developed more with my drumming, and i learned to accommodate more of the set, as well as playing faster and being more creative.
I listen to a lot of Kimya Dawson, but a lot of her music does not include drums. I listen to Hole and Sleater-Kinney, I also listen to Patsy Cline and Florence and the Machine, but they inspire me to do more visual art than play music.
EMMA: I’ve been listening to a lot of Hunx and his Punx, Shannon & The Clams, a lot of stuff off Burger and Hardly Art. Of course I’m still really into my favorite riot grrrl bands i.e. Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, Cool Moms, and lots of Nirvana is still happening here..
In the studio we recorded the new songs (for our EP we’re releasing, only at shows) live, I was jumping around a lot when we were recording so I guess that sort of shone through.. My writing has changed a lot since we released our first record. All the newer songs are really personal.
CHRIS: What’s the most bizarre show you’ve ever played?
ISAAC: We played a cat rescue benefit in somebody’s front yard once. that was pretty weird..
EMMA: Yeah, the cat rescue one was pretty bizarre. It was part yard sale, part cats, all Taylor Swift.
CHRIS: What’s the best food to eat after a show?
ISAAC: I really enjoy Denny’s after a show.
CHRIS: You’re going on your first tour this year. Tell us about it.
EMMA: We’re going up to Seattle and we’re extremely excited! It’s totally a D.I.Y. tour, we’ll be eating pb&j out of our van, sleeping on other bands floors, and I think it’s going to be the bee’s knees. We don’t have all the dates secure yet, but they’ll be up on our website asap!
The Potential Lunatics will be playing an all ages show at DiPiazzas on 4/29 with Bonfire Madigan, Evan Greer, and Anna Oxygen!